HEPATITIS A VACCINE
Welcome to the Hepatitis A section of the Washington Travel Clinic website. This page contains valuable information on Hepatitis A and its prevention, as well as links to the CDC website where you can learn about country-specific recommendations for hepatitis A vaccination.
The hepatitis A vaccine is available at the Washington Travel Clinic. Our fee structure is clearly posted in the Pricing section. For an easy online appointment, please click here. Also visit our Homepage for more information about the full spectrum of our services.
“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by one of several viruses, such as hepatitis A virus, hepatitis B virus, or hepatitis C virus. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, bacterial infections, and viral infections can also cause hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is an infectious disease of the liver that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
Hepatitis A still occurs in the United States, although not as frequently as it once did. During the last 20 years, the number of cases of hepatitis A has steadily declined. The estimated 373,000 new infections in 1990 dropped to 143,000 by the year 2000. New cases are now estimated to be around 30,000 each year. Many experts believe this decline is a result of the vaccination of children and people at risk for hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter—even in microscopic amounts—from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces or stool from an infected person. It can be spread when:
An infected person does not wash his/her hands properly after going to the bathroom and then touches objects or food.
A caregiver does not properly wash his or her hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected person.
Someone engages in certain sexual activities, such as oral-anal contact
with an infected person.
Hepatitis A can also be spread through contaminated food or water. This most often occurs in countries where hepatitis A is common, especially if sanitary conditions or personal hygiene are poor. Contamination of food can happen at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking.
Not everyone gets symptoms. If symptoms develop, they usually appear 2 to 6 weeks after exposure and can include fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, joint pain, jaundice, dark urine and clay-colored bowel movements.
Symptoms are more likely to occur in adults than children. They usually last less than 2 months, although some people can be ill for as long as 6 months.
A doctor can determine if a person has hepatitis A by discussing his or her symptoms and taking a blood sample. There are no special treatments for hepatitis A. Doctors usually recommend rest, adequate nutrition, and fluids, although a few people will need to be hospitalized. It can take a few months before people begin to feel better. People can spread hepatitis A even if they don’t look or feel sick. Some adults and many children have no symptoms.
Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several months, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. Sometimes hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, although this is rare and occurs more commonly in people older than 50 and people with other liver diseases.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated. Experts recommend the hepatitis A vaccine for all children, some international travelers, and people with certain risk factors and medical conditions. The hepatitis A vaccine is safe and effective and is given as 2 shots, 6 months apart. Both shots are needed for long-term protection. The first dose protects the vast majority of people. The second dose provides immunity to a minority of people who do not respond to the first dose. Since it takes 7-14 days for the vaccine to work, last-minute travelers have an alternative option: a shot of immune globulins which contain the antibodies against hepatitis A and provide immediate protection that lasts 2-3 months.
Frequent handwashing with soap and water — particularly after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing or eating food — also helps prevent the spread of hepatitis A.
Once a person recovers from hepatitis A, he or she cannot get it again or spread it to others. For these individuals, the vaccine offers no benefit since they have already been infected.
Who should get vaccinated against hepatitis A?
Men who have sexual contact with other men
Users of injection and non injection illegal drugs
People with chronic or long term liver disease, such as hepatitis B
or hepatitis C
Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
People with clotting-factor disorders
People who work with hepatitis A virus in a research laboratory or with animals infected with the virus
Family and caregivers planning an adoption from a country where hepatitis A is common
All children at age 1 year
Click here for more information about hepatitis A from the CDC website.